Best-laid (kitchen) plans

We love to choose cab­i­nets, bench­tops and tiles for a new kitchen, but there’s a host of other im­por­tant de­tails to con­sider too, writes Colleen Hawkes.

The Press - Your Weekend (The Press) - - At Home -

We’ve all stayed in other peo­ple’s homes and felt the odd frus­tra­tion about the way the kitchen works. Where’s the light switch? Why are the cook­ing uten­sils so far from the oven?

Maybe in our own kitchens there are things we know are not ideal. A col­league or­dered a beau­ti­ful new kitchen with very cool over­head cab­i­nets. She is ver­ti­cally chal­lenged but was sat­is­fied she could reach the cab­i­nets and open the lift-up doors. Prob­lem was, once they were open, she couldn’t then reach them to close them again.

So much gets over­looked, and it all comes down to the detail when we plan a new kitchen. We love to spend time choos­ing the aes­thetic bits – the bench­top ma­te­rial, cab­i­nets and splash­backs – but per­haps we should put an equal amount of time into plan­ning the less ob­vi­ous things that have a big im­pact on func­tion­al­ity.

Fol­low­ers of The Block se­ries on TV at present will be aware of a prob­lem with Stace and Yanita’s kitchen. They ne­glected to put in a power point in the main kitchen area for an elec­tric jug or rice cooker.

Award-win­ning kitchen de­signer Mal Cor­boy says the po­si­tion of power points and light switches is of huge im­por­tance, and needs to the con­sid­ered very early on in the plan­ning. He points to the huge rise in de­mand for Ther­momix cook­ers, which means ide­ally there should be a power point at one side of the bench­top, where the cook­ers are usu­ally stored. “You want it off to the side, not right in the cen­tre.”

And to­day, there’s usu­ally a need for a per­ma­nent charger sta­tion for elec­tronic de­vices. Re­mem­ber too, both charger sta­tions and power out­lets can be hid­den within a pop-up unit on the island, so you can’t see them when not in use. PDL ver­sions even come in a range of dif­fer­ent fin­ishes.

You need to think, too, about the height you want your bench­top. There is no “con­ven­tional” height. A work sur­face that’s the right height for a per­son who is 186cm is not much good if it’s the 150cm-high per­son do­ing all the cook­ing.

Cor­boy says tap­ware is one of the most over­looked items in kitchen de­sign. “Many peo­ple or­der a lovely kitchen and then go and buy a cheap tap that doesn’t suit the style of the kitchen. A tap is one of the most used ap­pli­ances in the kitchen, and if peo­ple spent a lit­tle more they could get a tap that looks better and works better. Peo­ple tend to scrimp and save, but there is only $500 be­tween a good tap and a bad tap.”

The de­signer says we also need to plan our tap­ware choice early. “Right now, I have been scour­ing the city try­ing to find two iden­ti­cal black taps for a client. Most com­pa­nies don’t carry stock and there can be an eight-week lead time be­fore they ar­rive. The same hap­pens with bar stools.”

Con­sider, too, which side you put your tap. If you are right-handed, you will prob­a­bly have pots, jugs or mugs in that hand, so it's best to have the tap and mixer lever on the left. Or vice versa.

It is not so dif­fi­cult to plan when you have a de­signer, of course. They can plan the lay­out and show you what works best. They know all the pit­falls – for ex­am­ple, how much space you need to al­low for open dish­wash­ers and oven doors. They will plan the lay­out around the way you work in the kitchen, and they know how to max­imise ev­ery inch of space and en­sure you can ac­cess ev­ery cab­i­net eas­ily.

They will sug­gest the best po­si­tions for items that need to be close to the cook­top, such as cook­ing uten­sils, oils and spices. And they will en­sure there’s a good flow be­tween the dish­washer, sink and crock­ery/cut­lery stor­age.

To­day, re­frig­er­a­tors are of­ten at the side of the kitchen, where they can be eas­ily reached by fam­ily mem­bers, so they don’t have to come into the work­ing part of the kitchen to get a drink.

De­signer Glen Johns of New Ply­mouth, who won the Supreme Kitchen Award in this year’s NKBA Awards says he al­ways asks clients to choose their ap­pli­ances early in the process. “We re­ally need to know what ap­pli­ances you like so we can then plan a kitchen around these.”

Again, it is help­ful if you can tell them your pre­ferred height for the mi­crowave oven, and whether you are plan­ning for wall ovens, un­der­bench ovens or a free­stand­ing ver­sion.

Light­ing also, is best dis­cussed with the de­signer. It’s not just the light­ing above the island that mat­ters, it’s those cor­ners on the back bench that can also ben­e­fit from a good light­ing plan. To­day, LED strip light­ing is not just about looks, it’s also about light­ing up bench­tops and cook­tops from above.

And don’t for­get those tradies, says Cor­boy. “It’s a good idea to have ev­ery­one teed up in ad­vance, so you are not held up wait­ing for a plumber who has been given no warn­ing.”

Cor­boy also says de­sign­ers and trades­peo­ple find it eas­i­est to have one line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion – that means one spokesper­son for the fam­ily. “Right now I am work­ing on a kitchen for a cou­ple, and all the ques­tions have to be di­rected to the hus­band. If I ask the wife, she refers me to her hus­band. It is eas­ier to have that one point of con­tact.”

• •

Plan­ning a good kitchen de­sign is just as much about the small de­tails, says de­signer Mal Cor­boy. This kitchen by the de­signer teams a deep Co­rian Be­naro bench­top with bead­blasted oak ve­neer. LED light­ing en­sures all work sur­faces are well il­lu­mi­nated. PH

The kitchen on The Block: Side x Side, de­signed by Stace and Yanita, was crit­i­cised for its lack of power points. But the ap­pli­ances are well po­si­tioned.

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